M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia®

From cemetary tours to a former prison attraction, with plenty of family-friendly activities, too, Philadelphia knows how to do Halloween right.

Sarah Maiellano
October 08, 2015

Rich in history and full of irreverence, Philly does Halloween right. The scary scene is set with nighttime tours in a former prison, and ghost story-telling in a local cemetery. Walking tours and festivals get spirited with food, fun, and fright. Don’t fear for the kiddies, though—the many creative, family-friendly activities on offer will have the little ones picking pumpkins and playing mini-golf.

Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary

Philadelphia’s most notorious Halloween activity is fittingly one of its best. At one time, the Eastern State Penitentiary housed infamous prisoners, including Al Capone. The massive, castle-like building is open year-round for creepy tours, but Halloween is when things come alive—literally. Terror Behind the Walls includes six bone-chilling attractions throughout the building's crumbling cellblocks. Lights, sound effects, and costumed actors who take their roles seriously make this one of the country’s best October activities.

The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular

Silly—not scary—is the idea at Sesame Place’s kid-friendly Halloween celebration in the suburbs, where Sesame Street® characters abound and kids are encouraged to show up in costume. New this year is the Neighborhood Street Party Halloween Parade, which features 10 decked-out floats, as well as music and dancing. Perennial favorites include Halloween shows, a maze, and a hayride.

Haunted Food Tours in Manayunk

Fright makes nice with food during these walking tours of Manayunk. Just off the beaten path, this popular neighborhood is said to have a spooky past. Costumed guides tell local ghost stories, while tourgoers nosh at seven spots along the way, while sipping autumnal drinks as they do it. You’ll walk away with a map of the creepiest spots in town and a Halloween goodie bag.

Franklin Square OktoberFestivus

Center City Philadelphia’s family-friendly Franklin Square Park gets in the spirit first by transforming its Philly-themed mini golf course with fog, lights, and music. Three special events draw crowds young and old. Pumpkin picking and decorating at the Pumpkin Patch brings a bit of the country into the city. OktoberFestivus features a beer garden and popular food trucks. On Halloween afternoon, the park hosts Trick-or-Treating along a trail in the park.

True Tales from the Tomb: Mischief Night by Firelight at Laurel Hill Cemetery

It doesn’t get spookier than Halloween in a cemetery. Laurel Hill Cemetery hosts 10 special October events. Kicking off with an interactive murder mystery, several of the activities feature stories of those buried in the cemetery. Pro tip: the candlelit tours shouldn’t be missed. Several end with wine and beer, or cider and cookies. Tours are BYOF: bring your own flashlights.

South Street Headhouse District’s Pumpkin Fall Festival and the Day of the Dead Festival

Philly’s funky South Street offers two very different takes on Halloween. Families will love the pumpkin decorating, circus performers, hayrides, and face-painting at the Pumpkin Fall Festival. The Day of the Dead Festival (pictured) features a six-block parade and traditional music, food, costumes, and craft vendors.

Sarah Maiellano is on the Philadelphia beat for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter at @SarahMaiellano.

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